Learning to Love Your Aging Body – Ignore the Signs of Aging!
She is a famous author. At the time we met, she was in her early-to-mid fifties. What I noticed first about her were her feet, misshapen by bunions and corns, toes crowded and crossing over to form toe braids.
But these feet weren’t hidden in orthopedic shoes or sensible flats. They were oiled and buffed smooth; toes painted red and encased in the most exquisite, spare, strappy sandals. She glided across the floor, oblivious, it seemed, to what anybody thought of her.
I stood with my friend Evelyn, transfixed. We were both in our late thirties at the time and had never seen confidence like this – so totally self-embracing – not in a woman and not about a physical characteristic many of us would hide.
Our guest showed off her feet, flaunted them even, unabashed. She just didn’t care about the visible signs of aging.
Are You Comfortable in Your Skin?
At 63, I am comfortable in my skin. I have had to fight hard for self-acceptance. Growing up as a dark-skinned woman with rounded features and big kinky hair, there was no spot for me on the beauty spectrum.
I had to create one. I resisted pressure to straighten my hair and fought off department store make-up artists who wanted to contour my round nose into a pointy one.
At 19, I pierced my nose. I couldn’t find anyone to do it, so I did it myself. I was making a statement back then with that diamond nose stud. See me for who I am.
I admit that I am not as bold on the aging front as I was on accepting my diverse beauty. I am not sure why. Maybe it says something about how pervasive and powerful the anti-aging messages are.
Until recently, I still dyed my hair. And I would certainly consider using injectables like Botox if I could afford them.
I must cede the crown to the foot queen mentioned earlier. I am self-accepting, but not on the level that she is. Even now I apply a little foundation makeup to camouflage corns on my toes and even out dark spots and discoloration on my bare feet – a trick I learned from my mother and won’t be giving up anytime soon.
Aging is Complicated – Loving Your Body Shouldn’t Be!
This aging well thing is complicated. What bodily changes do we accept as a natural part of aging and what changes aren’t going down without a fight?
When do I cover up perceived flaws like corns, my meno-pouch and falling knees? And when do I say, “Oh, what the hell!? I am wearing that shorter skirt, dress, (fill in the blank), falling knees and all?”
I know that when someone tells me I look good for my age, what they’re usually saying is that I have managed (against the odds) to hold on to some traits commonly associated with younger women.
It’s meant as a compliment, but is it? How much has changed when aging well is still measured by the metric of youth?
Media Portrayals Don’t Help
And the media portrayals don’t help. It’s hard to know what healthy aging even looks like, given all that air brushing, injectables and ubiquitous nipping and tucking.
I remember being in the gym locker room years ago and noticing one of the elite trainers drying off. Her butt and thigh jiggled as she toweled off one leg and then the other. I was shocked.
I assumed a trainer’s body would be like hard packed snow. All those years I had been berating myself for my own jiggle. It never occurred to me that jiggle is normal.
We Are All on Our Personal Journey
Each of us is on our own aging journey. And yours won’t be like mine and vice versa. A dear friend recently went under the knife for a full facial. I honestly could not see the need that she saw. But it was real for her.
Some of us are going to diet our way back into those size 8’s, 10’s or 12’s, and some of us are going to lovingly accept our new roundness and give to charity clothes that no longer fit us.
Some of us will return to our natural hair color for the first time in years, tired of touching up gray every few days now instead of every few weeks or months.
Some of us will explore invasive solutions/procedures, and others wouldn’t consider that path in a million years.
Each of us will devise our own personal aging roadmap and figure out what about our changing bodies we can embrace and make peace with, and what we must do something about, if we can. Who am I to judge?
Are you learning to love your aging body? Do you find yourself beautiful? Or are you feeling the need for cosmetic “improvements”? Please join the conversation!
Elizabeth White authored a book about the millions of older Americans facing the prospect of downward mobility in old age. Fifty-five, Unemployed, and Faking Normal shares some tools and strategies boomers can utilize to make peace with changed circumstances, overcome financial hardship and achieve a more inner-directed and satisfying life.